After brackets were revealed, the UCSB Gauchos found out they are a No.12 seed. The Gauchos are a dangerous mid-major team led by a good, balanced offense. UC Santa Barbara also has a star guard that won the Big West Player of the Year. However, the Gauchos’ sixth man was recently injured in the Big West title game and could potentially be out for the NCAA Tournament. How will UCSB fair without their key bench player?
UC Santa Barbara averages 73.9 points per game and ranks 19th with an average scoring margin of +10.3. The Gauchos offense is driven by good ball movement as they average 14.7 assists per contest. UC Santa Barbara rarely turns the ball over averaging 10.8 turnovers per contest. Furthermore, UCSB plays a clean, efficient game by averaging 1.358 assists per turnover.
Also, the Gauchos are consistent as a team by shooting 47% on shot attempts. Shot efficiency is another strong suit of UCSB ranking 16th in the country at the mark of 1.160. If fouled, as a team they are great from the free throw line shooting 76.7%.
Without question, JaQuori McLaughlin is the star of the Gaucho offense. At all times, defenses must account for the deadly 6-foot-4 senior guard since he can score on all three levels. McLaughlin scores 16.2 points per contest along with 5.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds. By shooting 48.9% and 40.4% from three, the senior Gaucho demonstrates he is an efficient scoring-machine. Due to his offensive chops, some even consider McLaughlin a sleeper prospect in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft.
In addition, McLaughlin is reliable during huge games for UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos won three games to secure the Big West Tournament championship, and McLaughlin performed in every game. In the past three games, the 6-foot-4 guard averaged 20.3 points and shot 52.8%. Shooting 52.8% as a guard against teams playing for their season is no easy feat. Also, McLaughlin had one of his best games of the season in the Big West title game against the UC Irvine Anteaters.
JaQuori McLaughlin (@Jroc__3) was locked in last night w/ 22 PTS (4-7 3PT) to lead @UCSBbasketball over UC-Irvine in the Big West Championship. The 6'4 Senior is a poised playmaker who can score in a variety of ways, knowing how to balance the two in a winning fashion. pic.twitter.com/7bEH9LOTSU
— LeagueHim (@League_Him) March 14, 2021
Sixth Man’s Injury
Before buying into the UC Santa Barbara hype, they had a major injury occur this Saturday against UC Irvine. The Big West Sixth Man of the Year was the Gaucho Ajare Sanni averaging 11.2 points off the UCSB bench. Sanni had a very scary ankle roll in the first half and was out for the remainder of the game. Currently, Sanni’s status for the NCAA Tournament is unknown. If the Gauchos are without the sixth man, how will they fair in the Round of 64?
Of course, if other bench players or starters step up in Sanni’s place UCSB will be fine. Everyone will have to take on a larger offensive role if the sixth man is out. Against UC Irvine, several players stepped up offensively showing they can win without Sanni.
The starting forward Miles Norris typically averages 9.6 points on 48.8% shooting, and against UC Irvine he scored 19 while shooting 57.1%. In addition, Robinson Idehen is a big man coming off the bench and typically averages five points per contest. However, Idehen contributed eight points off the bench in the Big West championship game. Lastly, the star guard McLaughlin poured in six more points than his season average. The Big West title game against UC Irvine showed the Gauchos still can score plenty without Sanni.
The Round of 64 opponent for UCSB is the Creighton Blue Jays. The Blue Jays have good guards and are an offensive-minded team scoring 77 points per game. Creighton is coming off a 73-48 loss against the Georgetown Hoyas.
UC Santa Barbara versus Creighton should be a fun, high-scoring affair with great guard play. Twelve seeds are a popular upset pick and this game in particular could be a popular upset pick. If McLaughlin plays well and other players for the Gauchos step up on the offensive end, they have a great shot at winning against Creighton. In the Gauchos’ region, Virginia has some COVID-19 issues and they could be in danger against Ohio in the Round of 64. If Ohio was to pull off a major upset as well, UCSB could make a Sweet 16 run making them a cinderella team.
All stats courtesy of ESPN, Kenpom, NCAA and Team Rankings.